Susan Harryman

"Working with families became one of the most rewarding aspects of my job."

View full interview to hear about  advancements in physical therapy over the years and how including families into their children's therapies made such a positive impact on all of their lives.


Susan Harryman was director of physical therapy at the Kennedy Krieger Institute for 36 years, from 1961-1997. In addition to her work at the Institute, Ms. Harryman lobbied for a state law licensing physical therapists and served on a national panel to set standards for the field.

Ms. Harryman became interested in physical therapy as a result of babysitting for a family with a child with physical challenges. She trained as a physical therapist at Children's Hospital in Boston. "That was in the fifties so I had a lot of training in polio," she says. "But then I found this nice little group of children with cerebral palsy. No two children with CP are alike and it was such a challenge to help them."

That led her to the Institute in October of 1961 to take a course in cerebral palsy for therapists. At the time, it was one of the few institutions in the country to provide such training, she points out.

During that time, treatment at the Institute was offered in a residential setting, and the young patients stayed for eleven weeks. Staff had very little contact with parents then but that was to change over the years as parents became more involved in their children's treatment, she points out. "Working with families became one of the most rewarding aspects of my job," she says.

She recalls one mother who fought to have her profoundly physically disabled, but intellectually bright daughter admitted to a public school before children with disabilities were mainstreamed. "I remember going to the school with her and our occupational therapist going to the school with her and getting everything settled so they would allow her to participate. She did very well and is now a college graduate with an excellent job. The mother worked hard to advocate and get everything for her daughter."

Visit patientcare.kennedykrieger.org to learn more about the Institute's diagnostic and treatment programs.

Silberstein-Harryman Endowment Factsheet (PDF)

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